April 21, 2005
Don McGettigan built model airplanes as a kid, a sure sign of things to come.
"Somebody took me flying when I was 16, and it changed my whole life," he said.
The memory still propels McGettigan as he introduces local youngsters to aviation. Since retiring after 40 years as a flight test engineer, he has taken more than 500 youths into the air through the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program.
McGettigan, a member of chapter 228 in Mesa, coordinates local Young Eagles events. He joins other volunteer pilots in teaching youths ages 8 to 17 about aircraft gadgets before taking them on short flights.
Valley chapters hold public "fly-ins" every year, and McGettigan will work with Scout groups or individuals. Sometimes he hooks a few along the way, citing some Young Eagles who eventually entered the U.S. Air Force.
"You never know who you affect," said McGettigan, a Mesa resident. "If I fly 100 kids and it piques the interest of one or two of them, that’s reward enough."
Scott Mulhollan’s aviation fascination took flight at age 7 after riding in a 747.
Scott, who turns 14 this month, eagerly awaits a pilot’s license, which he can earn at age 17. For now, being a passenger and playing realistic flight simulation games will have to do.
But the Scottsdale teen knows his aircraft terminology so well, you would think he were already a pilot. That leads some school peers to call him "the airplane geek," he said, but he finds solace in the association’s annual summer camp in Wisconsin.
"There are people around me 24-7 who are just as interested in aviation as me," said Scott, a member of chapter 228 in Mesa.
Several of Scott’s family members have ties to the airline industry, which fuels the pursuit of his dream job: Piloting the Airbus A380.
"It’s the largest passenger aircraft in the sky," he said. "It can fly the farthest."
Visit www.youngeagles.org or call (480) 964-9236.